Shared Stories: My first experience baking bread

Belle Fluhart recalls a serious baking error that many of us can sympathize with – misreading the recipe.  Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center.  Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns

By Belle Fluhart

I was 12 years old during the Depression. My three older brothers were 18, 19 ½, and 21 years old.

When I started the 7th grade, I was delighted that I would have a class in sewing and a class in cooking. One semester sewing, the next cooking, every year.

In the cooking class we were making bread. The first day we copied the recipe from the black board, and talked about what we were going to do. The next day, we measured out the liquid and yeast, and mixed the liquid ingredients together and left it for the yeast to do what it’s supposed to do. I think it’s called proofing. The third day we mixed in the flour to make a dough.

In no time I realized that something was wrong, because it was not making a dough. I was adding more and more flour.

I had misread the recipe where it said to add ¼ cup of water, and I had actually added 1 ¼ cup of water. The teacher was watching me, but doing nothing. I realized that she was wondering what I was going to do.

I got some more yeast and put in more salt. I don’t remember the other ingredients, but I put in whatever was necessary to make up for all of this flour it was taking to make dough.

I mixed the dough, made a round ball, and put the oil on it. Then I found a big bowl and left it to rise overnight. The next day, I had a great, big ball of dough where I was supposed to have a little ball. I put flour on my board and started kneading the dough.  

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By this time, I was so embarrassed. I was just kneading the dough. I could feel the enmity of my fellow classmates. Everyone in this room hated me because I had a great, big ball of dough and everyone else had a little ball that could be held in the palm of one hand.

I wished I could crawl under a rock and just disappear. But there was no rock. I started to cry. I wasn’t looking up. I just kept kneading and kneading that dough.

Suddenly, the teacher was at my elbow. She said, “I went over to the cafeteria and borrowed a bread pan.”

At that, I looked up and the teacher was smiling. I quickly dried my tears and oiled the pan, formed the loaf, and put it in the pan. I put it up to rise and went home.

The next day we all baked our bread. I had to allow extra time for my big loaf. When the bread was baked, and beautifully browned, the teacher wanted me to cut it so she could taste it.

I pleaded with her to let me take it home so I could cut it where my brothers could see it. She said, “All right, if you promise that you will bring me a piece tomorrow.”

When I got home, my brothers grabbed the bread and one was starting to cut it.

I said, “The teacher made me promise to bring her a piece so she could try it.” My brother with the knife said, “The teacher gets the first slice.”

He cut the first slice and wrapped it up. He said, “Don’t forget to take it tomorrow morning.” I said, “I’m going to put it with my books.”

The first thing I did the next morning was to take the bread to the teacher. She took a bite and said, “That’s delicious.”

At the end of the semester, the teacher was preparing to pass around the report cards.
She said, “It has never been my practice to give anyone an A+, but this semester, I’m giving a student an A+. She doesn’t always do things right. In fact, she makes some great, big mistakes. But she always is able to compensate for her mistakes and make an edible product. And in these days, it’s so very important to not waste food.”

I was very happy, and couldn’t wait to take my report card home to show my brothers.